OHIO -- The public is now welcome to adopt pit bulls and pit-bull mixes from the Licking County Dog Shelter and Adoption Center.
The county announced the policy change on Thursday. Previously, the shelter has placed pit bulls with nonprofit rescue organizations, but not directly with families.
But a rise in pit bulls at the shelter has increased the county's dependence on those rescue organizations to place more of the dogs. The number of pit bulls impounded at the shelter increased 55 percent in 2016 from 2015, said Licking County Dog Warden David Shellhouse.
Though the shelter can't pinpoint a reason for the increase, the number of pit bulls went up dramatically in the spring after the Newark City Council voted to remove breed-specific language from the city's dog ordinances, Shellhouse said. Newark previously had designated pit bulls as vicious dogs.
By authorizing pit-bull adoptions, the county is "trying to solve an issue at the shelter that seems to be getting a little bit bigger every year," Shellhouse said Thursday while discussing the change with the county commissioners.
"Hopefully this will help out."
The county will try the pit-bull adoptions this year on a trial basis.
"These dogs came off the streets of our county; they didn't just come out of nowhere," said county Commissioner Tim Bubb. "What do you do with these animals, that for the most part, probably many of them could be good, loving pets? What you hope for is responsible ownership to go with it."
The Franklin County Dog Shelter and Adoption Center began adopting out pit bulls in 2012, after a statewide law removed the dogs' "vicious" label. Delaware, Fairfield, Madison and Union counties also allow pit-bull adoptions from their shelters.
Pit bulls account for about 30 percent of adoptions at the Franklin County shelter, said Susan Smith, spokeswoman for the Franklin County Department of Animal Care and Control.
Stigma surrounding pit bulls has declined, Smith said.
"People's attitudes have shifted quite a bit in the last three or four years," Smith said. "(Pit bulls are) not really any different than any other dog, just active and energetic."
(Dispatch - Jan 5, 2017)